This article will not make you a perfect mixer. There’s not one (or six) trick(s) that can give you a “perfect mix”. If there was, we’d all already sound just like Chris Lord Alge and life would be boring. Every mix sounding the same. This is meant to help you out with a few things I’ve learned along the way. So please read on and hopefully you’re able to take something positive away from my ramblings.
1) Record it Right in the First Place
Personally, I will never take on a strict mixing gig. One of the reasons I avoid mixing projects is because you never know what you’re going to get. Some recordings are straight up unsalvageable. It’s tough to deal with tracks that were played without a metronome, or where a vocalist is out of tune. At these points, you’re talking about doing more editing to save the song than actual mixing. If you do it yourself, make sure you do it right from the get go. Otherwise, you’ll be doing your best to fix someone else’s mistakes and your name will forever be tied to the stinky turd you’ve volunteered yourself to polish.
2) Nothing is Set In Stone
…until it is. That means get funky, get experimental, and get weird! Your mixes are not final until they’re up on iTunes. So have some fun and try out some different effects. If your clients are digging them, fantastic! If they don’t like all the flange you threw on their guitar, that’s an easy fix – just bypass the plugin. Simple as that. Don’t limit yourself because you’re afraid something might sound off-putting. What’s done can just as easily be undone.
3) Hold the Compression
Something I learned very early in my career is that even a light touch of compression can make a world of difference in a mix. You don’t need to slam your drums or vocals with compression, just give it a little tap tap taparoo. You’ll be impressed with how much you can do with so little.
4) Practice Your Craft
Yes of course you should be reading blogs, (cough cough, like this one), but what you should really be doing is practicing every chance you get. Just because someone loves one technique doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Look at my compression example – it’s something that works for me in most cases. I never go too heavy on my compression. But if you go through my catalog of songs, there are a few tunes I’ve doused with heavy loads of it. The more you work your craft, the better you’ll become at it. Practice makes perfect.
5) Edits Make Perfect
Practice makes perfect, and so do edits. You’ll be amazed at how much better a mix will sound when the vocals have been properly aligned with Melodyne, or the drums have been quantized perfectly with elastic audio. Even editing out mic bleed can dramatically improve the quality of your mixes (especially editing your toms on your drums). I know some people are more traditional with their approaches, but if you don’t like the way your songs sound after some finely tuned edits, revert back to #2.
6) Make it Your Own
No one ever told me when I first started that I could do whatever I wanted. Well, here I am telling you that you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT. You don’t have to take my advice, I’m just telling you some things that have worked for me. If you’re using some techniques that are completely unheard of, but you’re making your clients happy and making a name for yourself, you’re obviously doing something right. There is no right way and wrong way to do this, it’s all about what sounds good.
I hope you’ve been able to get some sound advice (oh boy I love a good pun) from this article. And honestly, if you’re using some obscure methods that your clients love, please hit me up and tell me what you’re doing. I’d be pumped to hear about it!